Out and about with Garuda

How to create fine dining inflight

December 21, 2016

Garuda Airlines has transformed its reputation for food and service in recent years. Julie Baxter gets the inside track from vp inflight services and Indonesian Masterchef judge Vindex Tengker

Quite simply, our brief on catering is just to be the best there is,” says Tengker. And while that is probably what every airline wants, he’s doing it by focusing on authentic flavours. “We want passengers to taste and enjoy Indonesia from the moment they step onboard,” he adds, and he’s been working with Alpha LSG for the past 18 months to help their chefs really understand the cuisine through visits and workshops and by sampling the food.

The new menu cycle, launching January 2017, includes both Indonesian and international choices but a growing number of passengers are requesting the Indonesian choice. Tengker explains: “We draw the inspiration for our menus from our national cuisine and with 16,000 islands across Indonesia that cuisine can be quite varied. Each station is encouraged to develop new dishes and we then work with the teams worldwide to translate these Indonesian creations into something that will work locally.

The menus have to suit a multicultural mix of passengers so the traditional level of heat in some dishes is reduced or spices are on the side. Tengker says: “Too much heat and spice isn’t comfortable on a flight and really it is flavour that counts most.” Classic inclusions are Rendung (beef), Indonesian salads and soups including oxtail (an Indonesia favourite) and a meatball soup which is a classic Indonesian comfort broth. The choices will be changed every four months and four chef specials from well known Indonesian chefs will add further variety.

Tengker draws on a successful career in the hotel industry for his ideas and standards and says: “Airlines today are like flying hotels. The catering is now a fine-dining experience, with tableware to match; and sommeliers pairing the wines for you. Presentation is important too so we have chefs onboard to prepare, adjust and plate the First and Business meals.

London-Jakarta passengers are served dinner two hours after take off, breakfast seven hours in and then satays, pies or filled wraps before landing.